Warner Bros via Everett Collection
Going back to the earliest days of both movies and television, producers have been enamored with putting sports celebrities on screen. They're some of the most recognizable people in the country and bring along a built-in audience of fans from their athletic exploits.
Of course, there is one issue that's a little hard to get around… most of the athletes that have been tapped to appear in movies can't act. We're taking a look at the most awesomely bad performances by athletes in movies… from ones that are just laughably amateurish to the truly unwatchable; the work by this group would make Lee Strasberg cry.
Shaquille O'Neal, Kazaam
In interviews, O'Neal can be utterly charming and he frequently looks like he's having a good time. Absolutely none of that translates to the big screen, however. The 7-foot-1 basketball player is a genie who emerges from a boombox and tries to help a kid (Francis Capra) who's got father issues. You'd think that a movie with a genie would be at least fun, but it has way too many dark moments and O'Neal's mugging doesn't help any. The movie was so bad that director Paul Michael Glaser hasn't got behind the camera since.
Charles Barkley, Space Jam
It's easy to point out that Michael Jordan is bad in the 1996 mix of animation and live action since he was the star of the show (along with Bugs Bunny, of course), but really, what did we expect? Jordan acted about as well as he ever did in his commercials and the rest of the NBA players, from Larry Bird to Patrick Ewing are equally awful. Barkley, however, as we've now learned from his work as a studio host for TNT has enough personality that he could’ve done better than the stiff performance that he gave.
Dan Marino, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
It's always amazing when athletes can't even play themselves convincingly. In Jim Carrey's breakout hit, Marino — along with a dolphin — is the subject of a kidnapping scheme. Marino's a good looking guy, but that's about the best thing that we can say about his abilities as an actor. When you're outdone by a sea mammal, things are pretty bad. Of course, as much as we don't like his acting, we still like him better than the movie's Mrs. Finkle, the character who famously said, "Dan Marino should die of gonorrhea and rot in hell."
O.J. Simpson, Capricorn One
Back before the Juice had his troubles with the law, he had quite the acting career. Most people remember his turn as Leslie Nielsen's partner in the Naked Gun series, but at one point, Simpson was legitimately trying to act. That's what puts his turn in Capricorn on the list. Playing a duped astronaut, along with James Brolin and Sam Waterston, who is unwittingly part of a fake mission to Mars, Simpson is all caged fury at the outrage of it all. At least the movie has some pretty rad late '70s hairdos going for it.
Wilt Chamberlain, Conan the Destroyer
At least there was logic to Chamberlain's casting in the rushed sequel to Conan the Barbarian… if you're looking for someone even more physically imposing than Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wilt certainly fits the bill. The towering Chamberlain plays a guard named Bombaata who is supposed to help Conan on a quest before killing him. Let's just say that doesn't work out too well for The Stilt. Considering his claims of prodigious sexual conquests, we're sure that Chamberlain had fun shooting the movie… and, really, he doesn’t look any more ridiculous than Grace Jones.
Dennis Rodman, Double Team
How many people can say that they were in a movie with Jean-Claude Van Damme and they were the worst actor on set? Rodman, at the height of his fame for his outrageous behavior, made the Muscles from Brussels look like Robert De Niro in comparison. The plot of the movie runs along the lines of most other JCVD flicks, with Rodman playing an arms dealer. The Worm is tasked with saying such classic lines as, "You look like trouble. I like trouble." There are a lot of explosions and Van Damme does his requisite butt-kicking, even taking on a tiger, but Rodman spends the movie seemingly smirking at the thought that someone's paying him to do… well, whatever it was he was doing.
Mike Tyson, The Hangover
Yes, The Hangover is a very funny movie and, yes, the scenes with Tyson are hysterical. Those two facts do not make Iron Mike a good actor. The former heavyweight champion just plays a slightly less scary version of himself and you get the impression that the mixture of awe and fear on Bradley Cooper's face wasn't a stretch with the real Tyson standing in front of him. As comical as it was to watch — due largely to Tyson's public persona — his reaction at the video of Zack Galifianakis peeing in his pool is on the level of a third grade school play. Just, um, maybe don't tell him we said so.
Howie Long, Firestorm
The longtime Los Angeles Raiders defensive lineman did a credible job as one of John Travolta's henchmen in the John Woo actioner Broken Arrow. That's where Long's acting career should've ended. Instead, he signed on to play the lead in a movie about the leader of a team of wild firefighters who has to rescue people trapped in a fire started by an escaped killer played by William Forsythe. The fact that someone actually bought that pitch is irrelevant and it's hard to fault Long for taking the payday, but the preposterousness of the plot is matched only by the football star's terrible line delivery. The best part of the movie is that it's mercifully short, clocking in at just 89 minutes.
Terry Bradshaw, Failure to Launch
Let's forget for a second the stretch of casting Bradshaw and Kathy Bates as Matthew McConaughey's parents. Let's even put aside the fact that the movie's awfulness has more to do with the nonexistent chemistry between McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker than anything the four-time Super Bowl winner did. The question that truly needs to be addressed is who the heck thought the idea of having Bradshaw naked in the movie was a good idea? God love him for being down for it, but the image of the former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback's naked rear-end is one of those things that you can't unsee. Bradshaw got his start in acting doing cameos in his buddy Burt Reynolds' films and luckily, he doesn't go too far out of his way to get parts. Why people feel the need to occasionally give him one is a whole other question.
Quickly enough, the varied rage-aholics comprising Vice President Selena Meyer's immediate staff have eased back into their insult- and obscenity-spouting M.O.s, churning out a whole bunch of hostility in the second episode of the stellar comedy's Season 3. This week, Selena faces the stresses of having to choose a new stance on abortion in light of her POTUS' quick shift toward the pro-life side. Naturally, the high-tension situation brings out a lot of colorful language in her crew. But who topped the lot with the harshest one-liners?
7. Secretary of the In-terror: JONAH
"Old Media like the Washington Toast better run and hide in the bathroom and join the Poo York Times."Oh Jonah...
"F**k HuffPo. They should be called 'PuffHo,' because Ariana Huffington is a straight-up ho and all they do is puff pieces."...you horrible idiot.
6. Abhor-ney General: SUE
"[Selena] is on the Coast Guard boat. Meeting and greeting fish."Self-explanatory. Somehow a much funnier line than it sounds like it would be.
"I don't need an enhanced roll to know my worth, Gary."After Gary explodes with giddiness over his being asked to handle a task over Sue.
5. Secretary of Offense: BEN
Responding to Selena's sarcastic quip about the existence of an "I don't give a s**t" lobby:"You're looking at him. I've got posters, buttons... not really. Because I don't give a s**t."
"I can't get POTUS to wave his transvaginal wand and make it go away." What do you even make of this?
"It would take a brain about this sizeMocking Gary's display of fruits representing the sizes of fetuses at different stages of gestation.
"I'm going home. If anybody needs me, I don't care."A classic, always.
4. Secretary of Treachery: MIKE
"Walt, Randal, this is Sasquatch. The edible garbage is out back."Introducing his new stepsons to Jonah.
"'Copy Cat Selena,' that's what they'll say. 'Me Too Meyer.' 'S**t for Brains.'"Predicting the public's antagonism for Selena's decision to mimic the abortion cut-off of another candidate.
3. Secretary of Hate: SELENA
"It begins here. In this Polish dungeon."Selena's grinning dismissal of her Maryland campaign office.
"I can’t identify myself as a woman. People can’t know that. Men hate that. And women who hate women hate that… which, I believe, is most women."Regrettable bonus points for putting down her gender as a whole.
"You let that unstable piece of human scaffolding into your house?"To Mike, about Jonah.
"I can't listen to that Joan Crawford b**ch about Bette Davis anymore."In the parameters of this insult, Ben is Joan Crawford and Kent is Bette Davis.
"I accept your apology while retaining the right to fire the f**k out of you. Should I print that up on a t-shirt that I can give to you?"Said to Dan, following his outburst over her inability to make a decision on the abortion issue. It's at once horrifying, condescending, and hilarious.
2. Vicious Vice-President: AMY
"You just gonna sit there, SpongeBob?"Mocking Dan for his seasickness. It's not so much the insult itself, but Amy's ability to make such a banal joke so pointedly mean that wins her points here.
"Tell Mike to climb off his wife and get on speakerphone now."I'm picking up on a very subtle undercurrent that everybody hates Mike's new wife. Or at least the idea of another human being entering their lives in a personal capacity.
"Jesus, what a talking gas giant. It's like listening to Jupiter."About Maddox.
"Moving on, and Dan may be quite soon..."Immediately following Selena's threats to oust Dan from his job. The callousness of her noting that Dan might actually get fired is what makes this such a gem.
"Go home. Take an ambien. Take 50."Said to Dan. Jeez, Amy really hates Dan.
"'Twenty-two-and-a-half Weeks' sounds like an erotic thriller."Putting down Gary's suggestion for an abortion cut-off. She could have just said 'no' ... but she's an artist.
1. The President of Put-Downs: DAN
"You don't announce your candidacy while the incumbent is still warm. That's like trying to bang the widow at the funeral."Putting down Gary's suggestion that Selena tell the world she's running for president. He could have just said 'no' ... but he's a wizard.
"That s**t-shoveled-faced-f**kin' Jonah."I don't even know what this means.
"I am going to rip your guts out of your tiny, shriveled little Chihuahua c**k."To Jonah.
"Hey, Ugly Betty, give me that burrito."To Jonah's friend.
"If you say anything about the Veep, I will break your legs so severely you will end up normal height."To Jonah.
But Dan's real genius comes in the nonverbal form this week, blowing up at Selena to the point of physical tremors and shoving aforementioned burrito into Jonah's face as a symbol of his menace. Both are sights to behold from the usually stoic-to-the-point-of-soulless Dan.
NICE THINGS GARY SAID
"Every angel needs an archangel!"In this scenario, he's the angel and Selena is the archangel. Gary... you weirdo.
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TriStar Pictures via Everett Collection
An hour and change into Pompeii, there's a volcano. You'd think there might have been a volcano throughout — you'd think that the folks inhabiting the ill-fated Italian village would have been dealing with the infamous volcano for the full 110 minutes. After all, volcano movies have worked before. Volcano, for instance. And the other one. But for some reason, Pompeii feels the need to stuff its first three quarters with coliseum battles, Ancient Rome politics, unlikely friendships, and a love story. But we don’t care. We can't care. None of it warrants our care. Where the hell is the volcano, already?
To answer that: it's off to the side — rumbling. Smoking. Occasionally spiking the neighboring community with geological fissures or architectural misgivings. Pretty much executing every trick picked up in Ominous Foreshadowing 101, but never joining the story. Not until Paul W.S. Anderson shouts, "Last call," hitting us with a final 20-odd minutes of unmitigated disaster (in a good way). If you've managed to maintain a waking pulse throughout the lecture in sawdust that is Pompeii's story, then you might actually have a good time with the closing sequence. It has everything you’d expect — everything you had been expecting! — and delivers it with gusto. Torpedoes of smoke running hordes of idiot villagers out of their homes and toward whatever safety the notion of forward has to offer. Long undeveloped characters rising to the occasion to rescue hapless princesses who thought it might be a good idea to set their vacation homes at the foot of a lava-spewing mountain. The whole ordeal is actually a lot of laughs. But it amounts to a dessert just barely worth the tasteless dinner we had to force down to get there.
TriStar Pictures via Everett Collection
To get through the bulk of Pompeii, we recommend focusing all your attentions away from the effectively bland slave/gladiator/hero Kit Harington — sorry, Jon Snow (he's actually called a bastard at one point) — and onto his partner in crime: a scowling Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje — sorry, Mr. Eko (he and Snow actually trade valedictions by saying "I'll see you at another time, brother" at one point) — who warms up to his fellow prize fighter during their shared time in the klink, and delivers his moronic material with a sprinkle of flair. Keeping the working man down is Kiefer Sutherland — sorry, Jack Bauer — as an ostentatious Roman senator, doling out vainglory in Basil Fawlty-sized portions. When he's not spitting scowls at peasants, ol' JB is undermining the efforts of an earnest local governor Jared Harris — sorry, Lane Pryce (he actually calls someone a mad man at one point) — and his wife Carrie-Anne Moss — sorry, Katherine O'Connell from Vegas (joking! Trinity) — and finagling the douchiest marriage proposal ever toward their daughter Emily Browning — sorry, but I have no idea what she's from.
But questionable television references and some enjoyably daft performances by Eko and Jack can't really make up for the heft of mindless dullness that Pompeii passes off as its narrative... until the big showstopper.
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In truth, the last sequence is a gem. It's fun, inviting, and energizing, and might even call into question the possibility that Pompeii is all about how futile life, love, friendship, politics, and pride are when even the most egregiously complicated of plots can be taken out in the end by a sudden volcanic eruption. But you have to wade through that egregious complication to get there, and you shouldn't expect to have too much of a good time doing so.
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Summit via Everett Collection
You can imagine that Renny Harlin, director and one quadrant of the writing team for The Legend of Hercules, began his pitch as such: We'll start with a war, because lots of these things start with wars. It feels like this was the principal maxim behind a good deal of the creative choices in this latest update of the Ancient Greek myth. There are always horse riding scenes. There are generally arena battles. There are CGI lions, when you can afford 'em. Oh, and you've got to have a romantic couple canoodling at the base of a waterfall. Weaving them all together cohesively would be a waste of time — just let the common threads take form in a remarkably shouldered Kellan Lutz and action sequences that transubstantiate abjectly to and fro slow-motion.
But pervading through Lutz's shirtless smirks and accent continuity that calls envy from Johnny Depp's Alice in Wonderland performance is the obtrusive lack of thought that went into this picture. A proverbial grab bag of "the basics" of the classic epic genre, The Legend of Hercules boasts familiarity over originality. So much so that the filmmakers didn't stop at Hercules mythology... they barely started with it, in fact. There's more Jesus Christ in the character than there is the Ancient Greek demigod, with no lack of Gladiator to keep things moreover relevant. But even more outrageous than the void of imagination in the construct of Hercules' world is its script — a piece so comically dim, thin, and idiotic that you will laugh. So we can't exactly say this is a totally joyless time at the movies.
Summit via Everett Collection
Surrounding Hercules, a character whose arc takes him from being a nice enough strong dude to a nice enough strong dude who kills people and finally owns up to his fate — "Okay, fine, yes, I guess I'm a god" — are a legion of characters whose makeup and motivations are instituted in their opening scenes and never change thereafter. His de facto stepdad, the teeth-baring King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins), despises the boy for being a living tribute to his supernatural cuckolding; his half-brother Iphicles (Liam Garrigan) is the archetypical scheming, neutered, jealous brother figure right down to the facial scar. The dialogue this family of mongoloids tosses around is stunningly brainless, ditto their character beats. Hercules can't understand how a mystical stranger knows his identity, even though he just moments ago exited a packed coliseum chanting his name. Iphicles defies villainy and menace when he threatens his betrothed Hebe (Gaia Weiss), long in love with Hercules, with the terrible fate of "accepting [him] and loving [their] children equally!" And the dad... jeez, that guy must really be proud of his teeth.
With no artistic feat successfully accomplished (or even braved, really) by this movie, we can at the very least call it inoffensive. There is nothing in The Legend of Hercules with which to take issue beyond its dismal intellect, and in a genre especially prone to regressive activity, this is a noteworthy triumph. But you might not have enough energy by the end to award The Legend of Hercules with this superlative. Either because you'll have laughed yourself into a coma at the film's idiocy, or because you'll have lost all strength trying to fend it off.
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